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how to find a blizzard - walk up a hill, beinn a chachair

how to find a blizzard - walk up a hill, beinn a chachair

Postby paul2610 » Mon Jan 30, 2012 11:24 am

Munros included on this walk: Beinn a' Chlachair

Date walked: 30/01/2012

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‘Stonemasons hill’ (Beinn a'Chlachair), ‘White Cairn’ (Geal Charn), and ‘Peters Crag’ (Creag Pitridh), such names are appointed to the peaks that we aspire to summit. Where did these names come from? Who named them? Many in their translation allow subtle hints to their use or significants during earlier times, and of the people who created the paths, tracks and roads during their sometimes clandestine affairs.

These days most of us delve into the interior of the highlands with purely innocent intentions and after parking the car at a convenient place, change into modern hiking boots and make our way to the path track or road, which heads in the general direction of our destination. Nice and easy, but what if there is no path, no sign or post, no indication at all of the thousands of rubber soles that had ventured this way. What if all there was is a bland white sheet of snow covering everything in its soft smooth surface like the land had recently gone through a sieving of icy sugar as your mums perhaps used too on a sponge cake (after you’ve had a good licking of the wooden spoon!).

Do you rethink about the domain your about to enter as clouds shroud the peaks in a thick dense blanket of nothingness. Or do you revel under the excitement as your best foot steps forward into the virgin snow and unknown bounds of land, where the you feel the rush and thrill of (in all intense and purposes) being the first to mark this historic landscape. As your gaze soars out over covered rock and stone, wild rivers and stout growths of heather, do you feel your heart pump into the fields of snow, or after about 20 metres of walking thigh deep in snow, do you think;

‘Oh heck, this is gonna be fun!’

Luckily, for the pup, and me the last comment never came to mind as we stood in a layby between Loch Laggan and a reservoir starring up into Ardverikie Forest and, our target for the day, Beinn a Chlachair, which reigned to our front like a fountain of icicles above a sea of darkness ablaze with faint hints of orange as the flickering tongue of twilight chased the star lite night away. My thoughts (can’t quote for the pup) centered on wondering just what this stonemason called Peter looked like and if the rocks he worked with were the large boulders of white crystal you see laying around?
After about the first few feet from the car, my thoughts turned to more serious matters as I nearly slipped on the many thick invisible patches of ice that inconviently seemed to appear where ever they liked, just waiting to trip up any who stepped on them. A few lite up like Christmas trees as the stars above shone perfectly from them, but as the twilight drew on, I stepped as if on eggshells to avoid those too cunning to reveal themselves.

Once over the bridge of the wide river that connects the Loch to the reservoir, the track was smooth and wide (wider in places then the road you have just driven down) for about ½ a mile until you escaped from these civilized tracks into the hillside ones through the gate that winds up into the heights where we neither saw anybody all day or experienced the aforementioned snow until about 400 to 500m.

The track follows an easy gradient besides the Abhainn ghuilbinn, who’s higher and lower smooth calm waters are intersected by a short series of ragging falls over large boulders creating a sound akin to traffic on a busy road. Something the rivers above are good at as well. The track levels after a ways and seems to lead you towards a small gathering of pines whose dark winter bleached trunks seem void of life. but just before this, you turn right onto a far less used track but still quite good for bikes also and relax upon its smooth surface underfoot as its leads you round to the spectacle that is Lochan na H-earba. At almost 100m above loch laggan, it pure grandeur impresses upon you the size of its surrounding mountains who tower along its sides, a sight that only seemed more fascinating when seen as the sun rose bringing to detail in shadow the many rugged cliffs along its right hand side.

Once across the bridge, the track is left upon taking a stalkers path where the real fun starts as your knees, legs and heart pump faster to the increased gradient, this path take you along beside the allt coire pitrich whose musical rustling sounds are like sweets to a child. View after wondrous view, the path take you passed this rivers many waterfalls, over shiny stones and stunted rowan tree’s whose lifeless branches soar into the freezing air, giving colour and pattern to an otherwise bland, cold scene.

Thus far, along my route, my destination has been forever impressing upon my eyes, of its wild bound corrie and cloud free top, which lead to a hope that it would remain so especially after seeing other tops disappear under their cloaks of white mass. Soon it would disappear from my sight as I approached its flanks, but not before the path lead, me into the deep V shaped channel that the river had carved from this hard land. I followed this until the path topped out of this small troth to where another river joined it creating a sort of two-pronged fork of deep V’s. It was at this point that I crossed the river and headed over the covered heather in deep snow towards the steepest climb of the day, directly north of me.

The pup seemed as usual without a care for the increased gradient as she bound like a spring doe all over the slopes just as my pace slowed to a grinding near halt. I ascended over this steep piece via a sheet of thick snow (the only present along this side of the mountain) which was thankfully soft enough to take a footprint and not frozen solid where spikes and axe would be needed. At various places up it, the waters of the river below this sheet shone brightly like dark dirty marks on an otherwise pure white bedding sheet whose sound mingled in with the occasional whistle of the wind.
Once on top this wind increased in stages of nothingness to quite forceful coming from an easterly direction, it brought cold for sure but also snow that it swept off that side of the mountain right into our path. I wondered if this would bother the pup but she was bounding as usual up towards the top that was as free of cloud as it was when we got there a few minutes later.

According to the weather forecast, the chance of cloud free Munros were to be 30 to 90%, a measure I thought meaning in reality – ‘you do your walk and take your luck’. It seemed to the pup and me as we messed around the small cairn that we had all the luck, whereas any souls treading the foothills and peaks around us (except perhaps for the Monadliath) had all the bad luck where we saw a thick flat blanket of snow filled clouds decimate any hills towards Ben alder from sight. Plus my hopes of seeing the Nevis range were just as dashed by the presence of rounded, stormier version of the aforementioned clouds.

Not all was lost thought, as these rounded and flat dark clouds added marvelous contrast to the mountains slopes, which befitted B and W photos. Plus it seemed we had summated this peak just in time, as five minutes after leaving the peak some of the distant clouds found use and washed all the great views away under its white army of snowflakes.
The descent saw up head towards the small Lochan beyond the 977m top where the views came and went like a beautiful woman seen amongst a crowd of people – forever sought but never quite seen long enough! The walk/slide/climb down the rocky outcrops of this side of the Munros, were eventful and entertaining enough down to where I started to get views of the small loch, even managed to capture a few photo’s before the cloud above caught us up and swallowed everything including the last of my desires to climb the next Munro.

So instead, we headed down to the slightly warmer and less windy places below us, following the stalkers path that we left earlier over the frozen bogs making them feel something between dense sponges and concrete that to every step was like mini trampolines allowing little spring to every step. Until we found the tracks again.


Lochan na h-earba


looking back towards monaliaths


looking up at the target of the day


could'nt resist this waterfall where their appeared lots of little ones intersecting together


towards creag meagaidh - to me it seemed that this small corrie has a glacier?


the summit


from the summit towards the nevis range


the small lochan towards ben alder way.


the storm clouds


laggan falls seen just off the road near to wolftrax
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Re: how to find a blizzard - walk up a hill, beinn a chachai

Postby kevsbald » Mon Jan 30, 2012 11:29 am

Lovely report.
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Re: how to find a blizzard - walk up a hill, beinn a chachai

Postby Alastair S » Mon Jan 30, 2012 1:54 pm

Great stuff with some lovely photos (don't forget to enter the up-coming monthly photo comp).

By the looks of it you carry a tripod around with you - or do you just find something convenient to rest the camera on?
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Re: how to find a blizzard - walk up a hill, beinn a chachai

Postby LeithySuburbs » Mon Jan 30, 2012 8:33 pm

Cheers for that :) . I'm a sucker for "running water" shots :D .
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Re: how to find a blizzard - walk up a hill, beinn a chachai

Postby mrssanta » Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:36 pm

lovely pictures
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Re: how to find a blizzard - walk up a hill, beinn a chachai

Postby paul2610 » Wed Feb 01, 2012 2:27 pm

Alastair S wrote:By the looks of it you carry a tripod around with you - or do you just find something convenient to rest the camera on?

I use a Hama 00004214 Traveller Compact Pro Tripod with 3D Ball Head (to give it it's full title), wieghts in just over a KG and extends to my 5 foot 11 or 10 inches (11 at the start of a walk - 10 at the end!) plus managed to keep the camera (canon with 200mm lens) steady under a 30 mile wind - has a level thing but too much reading has shattered this old guys near sight and after the battering my wallet had to endure recently in pressies, pints and double drams the price did'nt give it a hernia! and its a nice matte black.
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